Working Mum: NHS Learning Disability Nurse

What’s it like to work full time in a physically and emotionally demanding job, as a learning disability nurse, then return to a three-year-old daughter, and messy house… while pregnant? Emily Greentree reveals all…

Emily Greentree, 32, lives in Bristol with her husband and their daughter Nancy, three.

Tealady Mumbles - NHS learning disability nurse -

Before having my daughter Nancy, I worked as a liaison nurse in a hospital, facilitating equal access to healthcare for people with a learning disability who were admitted to hospital. Six months after returning to work I moved roles and now work as a behaviour nurse within a community team. I’m a registered learning disability nurse and have been qualified since 2007.

Nancy was almost 10 months when I went back to work after maternity leave. I found returning to work was like being in a dream; nothing had really changed, and I had been expecting it all to be very different. When I was at work I could almost forget I had a baby as it was all so similar.

It was a very strange realisation to be back at work, like everything was over and this was now ‘normality’ (well apart from feeling very, very tired and having to look after a baby, of course…).

I’m lucky in that I didn’t have to put Nancy into nursery straight away; my partner reduced his hours and family members stepped in to help too. I reduced my hours to four days per week.

Adjusting to working four days is rather difficult, it’s almost full time and so I found myself squeezing so much into the day I was completely exhausted. It took time to adjust and to organise my time better. Oh, and to start saying “no” and letting people know that I couldn’t take any more work on…

After spending a year in a baby bubble, I found it liberating to be drinking hot tea and talking about TV programmes I hadn’t watched for 12 months. It was nice to see my colleagues and to be myself without a baby on my hip for a little while.

I still missed my days with her at home though, and the relaxed way we would spend our day. I really missed taking her to her baby groups, and to see other people take her out and have fun with her, whilst I was at work, was sometimes hard. I felt like I was missing out all of the fun (but then at the same time I got out of the other sticky bits).

I went back to full time working after a year of returning to work. Financially it made sense and we started Nancy at a local nursery for three days per week.

Working full time as a learning disability nurse

An average day looks like this: I get up, I wake Nancy up, and make a cup of tea (I cannot function without a cuppa!) I take turns with my partner to get ready, and to dress and attempt to feed Nancy some breakfast. If it’s a nursery day, things are a bit rushed in the mornings as I have to drop Nancy and my partner off before I can get to work. If it’s a day where my partner’s not working, I can focus on getting myself ready and just getting to work.

Once at work, my day can be varied. I have team meetings, home visits, assessments to complete as well as paperwork and documentation to fill in. I may have to travel across the area I work, and lunch is usually on the go.

I work with a variety of service users and at times situations can become difficult, but it is all part of the job. I enjoy my job immensely and get a lot of pride in helping individuals to improve their situations or support them or the people who support them to make their lives better.

I have to keep an eye on the time or else I won’t get back in time to pick up Nancy from nursery, and then after that it’s picking up my partner. Traffic can be terrible and I can be in the car for two hours just picking them both up!

Once home, it’s a snack for Nancy if she’s had her tea at nursery, or if it’s not a nursery day then either me or my partner will start to make dinner whilst the other starts the bath and bedtime routine.

Trying to balance my job role with the things that need to be done at home can be difficult, but I try not to beat myself up about it

Bedtimes can be a bit of a headache; at the moment she can take over an hour to settle in bed, but once she is asleep, she sleeps usually the rest of the night and I then get to relax, watching TV or reading a book. Then it’s time for bed and the whole thing starts again at 7am the next day.

Household chores and working can be tricky. With Dan off in the week with Nancy, he can struggle to get things done but usually the basics are sorted. Washing is the bane of my life and is never ending, and seems to take over my whole house.

As Dan works every other weekend, I usually catch up with housework on these weekends. When I went back to work I used to get so wound up about the housework, chores and how tidy the house was and it would cause quite a few arguments. Nowadays, we have a more relaxed approach and although at times it can be a bit of a tip, as long as Nancy has had a good day (and has done enough in the day to wear her out for bedtime!) that’s the most important thing.

We have a lot of storage and a lot of places to put toys and items so that they aren’t everywhere. We try and make things easier, and I do use a lot of antibacterial wipes!

The greatest challenges are surrounding time. I have to be organised and also I need a lot of patience. Trying to balance my job role with the things that need to be done at home can be difficult, but I try not to beat myself up about it.

Having the energy to spend quality time with my daughter at the weekend is tough too. Sometimes I am just so tired, I really struggle but this is my time with her, and I need to make it count. Even if we just have a movie day at home, I make sure we go and buy some goodies, watch a film together and make it a mummy and daughter experience.

Baby number two is due in August. Trying to work out how another child will fit into our arrangements is tricky

I do love my job and I think that makes a huge difference. For me, my job is my vocation and I am willing to push myself to ensure that I can achieve what I need to in my job, as well as family life. I managed to finish my degree once I returned to work from maternity leave, and that was a great achievement. If I want to do something I won’t let anything get in my way. One of my faults, though, is that sometimes I can take on too much and the stress of my job can come home with me, which I am trying hard to avoid.

Being at work has meant I have had to ‘let go’ a little, and initially this was tricky but now I love seeing Nancy spending time with her dad and other family members, and having special relationships with them. I love that she already has so many happy memories of spending time with different people.

Baby number two is due in August. Trying to work out how another child will fit into our arrangements is tricky. I am taking a year off for maternity leave, and then Nancy will start school, so we have to factor in picking her up/dropping her off at school as well as school holidays.

I have mixed feelings about leaving work again; it’s odd to have to hand over my work and I do have a little ‘fear of missing out’ about certain aspects of my job. I am also currently halfway through another course and I will need to complete this when I return to work in a years’ time.

We are still working out whether I need to reduce my hours at work when I return, but I will have some time at home before I need to really think about the logistics. I’m looking forward to the break, though, and the time to focus on my family and nothing else for a while. I’m going to enjoy this year, as this is almost certainly my last and final taste of maternity leave. And then the real hard slog will begin.

Check out Emily’s blog – Tealady Mumbles

Do you work as a nurse? How do you find it – juggling motherhood and work? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below…